Gag Grouper Set to Move

Water temperatures are becoming a little more favorable for shallow-water bottom fishing again. As the water cools gag grouper will make their way into 30- to 60-foot depths off of our coast. The main migration will start in shallower waters off of Bayport and Tarpon Springs. As fall weather continue these fish will push south toward our area and south to areas off of Sarasota before going back offshore. In the past few weeks we have seen many gag grouper in 80-100 feet in the area. I have been fishing with great results in areas that have been unproductive for five years. The gags have averaged 10-12 pounds. Larger fish have been falling for larger live baits such as squirrelfish and grunts. We have also seen a large number of mangrove snapper in 70- to 90-foot depths. Though it is a bit early for these fish to be in these areas, they will not go anywhere soon. The reason: Huge schools of juvenile Spanish sardines are holding on most ledges and rockpiles in these areas. These tasty baitfish will keep these fish put and help invite new fish on each spot. King mackerel have also been making their annual push through our area in the past couple of weeks. Areas holding bait, like the shipping channel and local wrecks and reefs in 30-50 feet, are producing decent catches. Cigar minnows and live Spanish sardines will usually outproduce artificial baits when it comes to size. But larger fish will feed on larger live baits such as blue runners and mullet.

Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and

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